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I BECOME A SNAKE-CHARMING DERVISH   157
One had to walk with care in these decaying underground places because snakes were especially fond of them. They would wriggle purposely through the tight-fitting crevices in the masonry, which compressed their bodies and so scraped off the old skin when the time had come to shed it. They liked, too, the solitude, the darkness and the shady coolness of such old refuges, and, therefore, frequently teemed in them.
Crawling along an extremely narrow tunnel, which was heavily laden with the undisturbed dust of many centuries, I passed into another dingy passage and eventually arrived in a low subterranean crypt. I recognized immediately that the latter had served for initiation purposes in the cloistered rites of the ancient Mysteries. The place was pitch-dark and I relied on the beam of an electric pocket torch for iUumination.
When I had finished a very thorough examination I turned back and retraced my steps into the passage. Suddenly a monstrous yellow scorpion emerged from a crevice hi the stone-work and scurried towards my feet. Scorpions have quite a predilection for the underground crypts ot old ruins. Owing to the broken character of the flagstones, the all-surrounding darkness, and the roof of the passage being so low, I could not move freely or quickly. I stood my ground, therefore, and pointed my first finger at the poisonous insect. In a loud voice I uttered the "Word of Power," and peremptorily commanded it to stop. Moussa had warned me that I should pronounce the invocation—as indeed all magical invocations—with the utmost mental concentration and strength I could muster.
The scorpion stopped dead still, as though suddenly confronted by some barrier 1
It remained in the same spot, transfixed, and did not attempt to move forward or back^md during the time I picked my way onward to safety.
For all I can tell, the unfortunate scorpion may still be on the same spot, awaiting the command of release!
On rare occasions Moussa exercised a playful habit of approaching a tree where he knew a scorpion to be hiding, and commanding it to come down. After a short or long delay, a scorpion invariably made its appearance upon the tree and actually leapt down on to the Sheikh's flat turban!
Once when I discussed the mystic power which belonged to the Rifa-ee snake-charming Dervishes and tried to get Moussa,